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The Bachelors (New Directions Paperbook) [Paperback]

Muriel Spark
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 July 2014 New Directions Paperbook
Perhaps you know Patrick Seton? He's that dear little, sinister little medium one meets at spiritualist seances. Well, they've accused him of forgery: he's coming up for trial. And all the bachelors of Chelsea, Kensington and Hampstead are in a VHF of a flutter.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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The Bachelors (New Directions Paperbook) + The Public Image: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) + Loitering With Intent (VMC)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Reprint edition (1 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811222985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811222983
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.3 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 562,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUPPET-MISTRESS 6 Aug 2004
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
The scene is a London courtroom where a spiritualist medium is on trial for defrauding a widow of her life savings. One of the main prosecution witnesses is a handwriting expert who suffers from epilepsy. Under questioning he suffers a seizure and the judge asks 'Is this man a medium?' It's very clever, in this instance it's very funny, and it's more than slightly heartless. It is the distinctive individual tone of Muriel Spark.
This is one of her best. I found I had to be very alert and attentive or I was liable to miss some new element lightly thrown into the plot without warning. Muriel Spark's touch is as light as thistledown. The characters in The Bachelors are a down-in-the-mouth lot, ranging from nondescript to squalid, but the author typically stays above, or at least outside, their dreary lightless existence. Thinking back over the book, I can't recall anything that I would classify as a single noble thought or piece of lofty motivation. The theme of bachelordom is not really central to the action, more a storyteller's device to help maintain a sense of unity in the narrative. One has to admire the sheer skill with which she keeps control of such a large cast and so many convoluted situations. The characters talk non-stop - virtually all of the book is between quotation-marks - and we have to get to know them, except in two instances, through what they say, not through what they think by themselves. In one of these cases we get a startling insight into what the medium is really pondering and planning, startling because of the way it contrasts with the idiom of the book generally at least as much as because of the nature of his mind. In the other instance a doctor who hardly features at all in the dialogue shines a moment's blinding light through the encircling murk.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars get to know THE bachelors... 14 Jun 2011
By Kiki
Format:Paperback
What a delirious and total surprise to get to know Spark's early book The Bachelors (1960)! They are a talkative lot, those unmarried men, every one has his problems but also plenty of 'solutions'. They act the way we think bachelors act and react; much of the talk is about food, but also a lot of gossipping goes on - they are not a quiet bunch of distinguished gentlemen, oh no! One is a medium and thinking back of the book makes the hair on my head stand up again.... scary and incredibly innovative by this master of quiet suspense.
I love, love, love reading Muriel Spark and I am happy that I still have some of her writing to look forward to. I won't go into the details of the book; it has been described in a much better fashion than I can do (being non English). Just one advice: If you still have the tremendous pleasure of getting to know this writer; go and search for her books ASAP. Muriel Spark died in 2006 and her books might not be reprinted in a hurry.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pre-swinging sixties London 13 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback
I am still reading this book and enjoy it as it is set before instant communications. You could still smoke in a reastaurant and women in skin-tight jeans seemed a prescient indication of what was to come. I look forward to reading more of this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly Funny, As Is The Norm For Ms. Spark 1 April 2000
By Tom O'Leary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Forgetting that I read this book some years ago, I recently picked up the new edition. Expecting to page through innocently and put the book back on the shelf, I suddenly found myself drawn into this devilish and absorbing tale about spiritual mediums, forgery, betrayal and yes, bachelors. Spark turns her marvelous eye on that group of men who want girls for companionship, but not marriage. This is a sly and yet poignant look at a group of intelligent, but not very bright Londoners circa 1960. I recommend it without reservation.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUPPET-MISTRESS 6 Aug 2004
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The scene is a London courtroom where a spiritualist medium is on trial for defrauding a widow of her life savings. One of the main prosecution witnesses is a handwriting expert who suffers from epilepsy. Under questioning he suffers a seizure and the judge asks `Is this man a medium?' It's very clever, in this instance it's very funny, and it's more than slightly heartless. It is the distinctive individual tone of Muriel Spark.

This is one of her best. I found I had to be very alert and attentive or I was liable to miss some new element lightly thrown into the plot without warning. Muriel Spark's touch is as light as thistledown. The characters in The Bachelors are a down-in-the-mouth lot, ranging from nondescript to squalid, but the author typically stays above, or at least outside, their dreary lightless existence. Thinking back over the book, I can't recall anything that I would classify as a single noble thought or piece of lofty motivation. The theme of bachelordom is not really central to the action, more a storyteller's device to help maintain a sense of unity in the narrative. One has to admire the sheer skill with which she keeps control of such a large cast and so many convoluted situations. The characters talk non-stop - virtually all of the book is between quotation-marks - and we have to get to know them, except in two instances, through what they say, not through what they think by themselves. In one of these cases we get a startling insight into what the medium is really pondering and planning, startling because of the way it contrasts with the idiom of the book generally at least as much as because of the nature of his mind. In the other instance a doctor who hardly features at all in the dialogue shines a moment's blinding light through the encircling murk.

The many characters are lively and convincing, their individuality beautifully touched in through subtle little touches that you will be liable to miss if your attention falters even for a moment. Despite that they have a feel of human puppets about them, a show put on for us by a clear-headed, clever, elegant and rather cold-hearted puppeteer. It may be that Muriel Spark is herself putting on an act by letting herself appear in such a light. My own feeling is that she is not minded to resolve that question for us - we can view her how we like for all she seems to care. I like her just the way she chooses to be.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contentedly Charming To Variously Tormented 16 Jun 2004
By prisrob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Daylight was appearing over London, the great city of bachelors" is the fist sentence of Muriel Sparks's book, "The Bachelors". The areas of London that had the greatest concentration of bachelors were Queen's Gate, Kensington and King's Road. Places all near the center of the shopping district.
The very British bachelors in this novel, a barrister, a councilman, a detective, an unusual priest, a spiritual medium, a handwriting expert, a man with uncontrolled seizures, and a man who eats onions to ward off advances from women, all well developed characters in this novel.
All start out on a Saturday morn, organizing their food shopping with their meal planning, and who will cook and clean for them.
They are all drawn in eventually into the social register of the group, and into the spiritual atmosphere of the medium, Patrick Seton.
Patrick Seton, a man who is a well known fraud to some. A man with little or no conscience and a man who will draw all of these bachelors into a lawsuit. Is Patrick Seton so demonized that he would try to kill his diabetic, pregnant girlfriend? So thinks the physician who is being blackmailed by Mr. Seton. Ahh, but what of this woman who is so in love with Mr. Seton? Is she a silly girl who will do anything for the love of he man?
Are any of these bachelors really in love with their women, or do they need them for other nefarious reasons? What are their motives? How will this man Patrick Seton confuse their spirits and their lives?
Dame Muriel Sparks was born in 1918, and in a few months her 26th novel will be published. She is a well beloved novelist from England. She writes of the dark, terrifying, evilness of the human spirit; and the deadpan humor of the human experience. This is a novel to be relished and to be read again to really experience the malevolence of the human mind. prisrob
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not A Classic 23 Sep 2010
By Kenny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Mark Twain said a classic is a book nobody reads. This book will be read for a long time to come. As with another reviewer I too found myself returning to this book after several years of having not thrown it away--I am thankful for that. I read it twice. And then I found another novel of Muriel Spark's Memento Mori still on my shelf and read it. Wow, am I ever thankful.

Just as a way of reminder a novel impresses different people different ways, being this way or that way so effective depending on each reader's own inclinations and biases; so anyone's perspective on this novel's story will be so affected.

That being said, Muriel Sparks was a Scottish convert to Catholicism. That is why I must state what is important; she lived in Britain where this made her an oddity. And it also meant that at first meeting her most fellow Brits would somewhat look down upon her with suspicion. A Catholic character in this book, Ronald Bridges, deals with such occasions by using some handy and amusing responses he has thought up along the way. In the two novels, this and the other I mentioned, it is in a Catholic character where the moral compass is to be found--through whom the novel's moral compass is given expression. Thus these stories have no way of not ultimately being testimonies of sorts to Mrs. Sparks faith.

For the serious and intelligent reader this should create no great bother. It is not overtly presented at all, and it would be unfair to say she could not write in a way that seemed to let everything and everyone alone to be revealed in a most natural if not astonishing way. It's just that without her adopted form of Christianity the novels would have been impossible for Ms. Sparks to write.

It is my opinion that in The Bachelors she has the character Ronald Bridges kindly explain to us how his Catholic faith plays a part in his life as a way of explaining it's part in her's--a reader could even legitimately consider the moment to be a testimony of her bias and her defense of it to the English literary establishment. In a piece of biting and humorous dialogue, she has an angry Ronald give it to his fellow Catholic and Irish friend Mathew Finch.

Let the dialogue begin with Mathew the Irish Catholic:

""Well, as a Catholic how do you feel about-"

Ronald turned on him in a huge attack of irritation. "As a Catholic I loathe all other Catholics."

"I can well understand it. Don't shout, for goodness sake-" Mathew said.

"And I can't bear the Irish."

"I wont stand for that," Mathew said

"Don't ask me" Ronald shouted, " how I feel about things as a Catholic. To me, being a Catholic is part of my human existence. I don't feel one way as a human being and another as a Catholic." "

As a couple of footnotes, in the novel the author herself highlighted "as a Catholic.", and it is widely acknowledged that Mrs. Sparks found her literary voice after her conversion to Catholicism.

I explain all of this so that for the truth's sake you wont let yourself be ignorant of the importance of her faith to her works. She writes as a Catholic. And don't be bothered by it. As any writer worth reading she also speaks of many things that are universally felt and knowable. All the other reviews have been dead on about what you will find in this book. Be aware that there is more, much more.

As I have said I have also recently reread this and her novel Memento Mori. I will let two great English writers, writers of classics of our times, tell of the impression her novels have left on them. One of these literary figures was a Catholic, Evelyn Waugh, and the other was an atheist with a profound pessimistic streak, Tennessee Williams. Of The Bachelors Evelyn Waugh wrote that "I am dazzled by The Bachelors. It is the cleverest and most elegant of all Mrs. Spark's clever and elegant books." Tennessee Williams wrote of Memento Mori that Mrs. Sparks is "A marvelously witty English writer--her best, I think, is Memento Mori, which is chillingly brilliant."

These two writers are quite set apart in their outlook on life, and they both went to her novels to be entertained and to be given a bit of, to paraphrase Joseph Conrad, that truth we have forgotten to ask of from the novel. After reading her novels a reader is amused, entertained, and has entered fully into a believable other world and fully into other's existences in it. At the end of the day the perennial issues crown her works: the nature of existence and human existence is felt both as profoundly funny and serious, as evil and good, on the surface not at all clear of malevolence, and as troubled and lowly, and as heroic, it being capable of both genuine friendship and love, a reality that Tennessee Williams had some profound doubts about being possible at all. On behalf of Tennessee Williams I must add that indeed no one is perfect nor can anyone escape life's troubles.

Bachelors are a funny breed; as for the pitiable and redeemable bachelors and bachelorettes in the novel, there are of the same kind roaming the earth today; in the short time frame of the novel one set does get married---a bachelor found himself an irresistible lady friend who found him equally irresistible.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Balance 14 July 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Muriel Spark is deliciously witty and writes with a lively charm. This does not prevent her from having an extraordinary talent for portraying the monstrously abnormal--to be precise, the diabolical. THE DRIVER'S SEAT, for instance, is overwhelmed by this malevolence--it is an excellent nightmare, but has only small moments of the Spark charm.
THE BACHELORS has a lot of both--the "medium" Patrick is one of Spark's most chilling portraits of evil. The scheming Spiritualists resemble more typical Spark "villains" (like the literary circle in LOITERING WITH INTENT), but are perhaps even more harmless in and of themselves. However, unwittingly they touch on something far grimmer--Spark demolishes the Spiritualists by showing that the only thing worse than their nonsense is when they stumble upon something genuine.
The "good" bachelors' interactions with this group provide an entertaining and equally true view of things, preventing the chill from permeating the book.
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